By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
According to Earthday.net, Earth Day came into being in 1970. It was the brainchild of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Senator Nelson became concerned after an oil spill in California and its aftermath, that there was little to no awareness of the impact of the environment on sustaining life. So, he and a fellow senator created a day of environmental education, creating a network of staff to execute events nationwide to spread the word about the need for advocacy of a healthy, sustainable environment.
Earth Day was born and on April 22, 1970, and 20 million Americans came out in support of the Earth. Also from this movement, came the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
Today, Earth Day is celebrated to remember the importance of environmental awareness and preservation. It is a day to intentionally get involved and be deliberate about protecting the Earth. From its early days in the 1970s, Earth Day has grown into a world-wide movement.
In every way, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians takes the protection of land, water and air very seriously. From the initial planning stages to construction to final execution, the tribal government invests millions of dollars to build state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly projects.
As an example, the Cherokee Central School construction received the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. TheTribe also works to retrofit older buildings with energy efficient lighting and heating and has installed electric car refueling stations. Conservation efforts include transitioning building to solar energy and experimenting with wind energy.
The community and government work together to recycle plastics, paper, metals and other renewable resources. The Junaluska Leadership Council, a group comprised of Cherokee youth, has taken a leadership role in community education and action with regard to recycling. From public awareness materials to recycling bins, the Council works to catalyze recycling efforts of families.
The EBCI Sanitation Department has 21 employees and operates 364 days each year. Sanitation empties 250 dumpsters throughout the Qualla Boundary and serves over 3,000 households and businesses. The Tribal Composting Department collects wood and food waste from casino and hotel and other sources to make mulch and compost for gardening.
The Tribe has initiated wildlife conservation strategies to promote the sustainability of indigenous game while balancing the needs of economy. The EBCI Fisheries and Wildlife program works to ensure that deer, bear and elk populations are managed. The Tribe also maintains a large volume trout hatchery that supplies enough fish to fill Cherokee’s streams with abundant trout for fishing enthusiasts and maintain healthy levels of fish in tribal waters.
Unlike a typical holiday, in addition to being a day of celebration and remembrance, Earth Day is a day of action and involvement. Earthday.net suggests that there are a number of ways to get involved. “The possibilities for getting involved are endless! Volunteer. Go to a festival. Install solar panels on your roof. Organize an event in your community. Change a habit. Help launch a community garden. Communicate your priorities to your elected representatives. Do something for the Earth, have fun, meet new people and make a difference.”
A specific way that you may be involved as a member of the Qualla Boundary community is to participate in the “Gadugi Earth Day” activities that are being held April 22 from 1-6pm at the Acquoni Expo Center (old High School) parking lot. The first 100 participants will receive a free recycling bin. Activity stations include recycling and education for several disposable products as well as composting and seed giveaways. Recycling competitions are being held for community clubs and individuals throughout the day. Contact Tammy Jackson 359-6934 for more information.